Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home   |  Volume 7, Issue 12, Tuesday, March 20, 2012




Financial security for a retired person

By Nasrin Sattar
Former CEO Standard Chattered
Bank Afghanistan

I was asked by a friend who had recently retired after working for a multinational company for 20 years for some financial advice. She had gotten an impressive gratuity and a substantial amount of Provident Fund. Her question was:

What is the best way to invest where I can get a monthly or quarterly return to enjoy a good lifestyle and what gives me best tax rebate? I don't intend to take any other job for a while, but want to maintain a decent standard of living.

A. I am outlining some of the best investment opportunities from my own experience:
Fixed Deposits (FD) in Commercial Banks or Non Banking Financial Institutions (NBFIs)

Shop around for good rates and also good reputable banks where the rate may be slightly lower, but you know your money is safe. At the moment the commercial banks have put a ceiling on the highest rate a bank can pay (but this may change subject to the liquidity situation prevailing at a given time).

There are a few solid NBFIs offering very attractive rates (they do not have to conform to rules of the commercial banks) and are slightly more flexible in the way they structure their FDs. You can ask for monthly or quarterly interest earned from the FD (which can have tenure of one or more years) to be credited to your current or saving account. This way your principal amount remains intact and you spend only the earnings from it.

Investing in Government Savings Bond (Shanchaya Patras)

This also gives you good return. Just before submitting tax return there is always a rush to invest in the five-year Shanchaya Patras, which not only gives you a good return but also allows you tax rebate.

The Share Market was a very attractive option not too long ago. More importantly, investing in the share market also qualified for tax breaks. However, the current instability in the stock market definitely makes it a 'no go' area for small investors. Many people I know have burnt their fingers very badly. We should always remember high gains also mean higher risks!

Remember, a penny saved is a penny earned, so however good a lifestyle you may want to lead, wastages should be avoided. Try to get into the habit of making a budget for your routine expenses so that one month's excess (for whatever reason) may be compensated with a little frugality in the next.

I have talked about several options, but one should always remember that all eggs should not be put in the same basket. In other words find a happy balance of multiple savings instruments and institutions to give you the best mix of earnings and security.


It is summer time!

By Laila Karim

Look at the trees around us -- they are enjoying the best time of the year. All the empty branches are now dressed up with new leaves and tiny, new branches popping up. They are really green, fresh and shiny. Some start with a purple-red, which turns into green and become deep, dark green gradually as they mature. Every little breeze makes them move as if they are dancing in the air!

A little TLC goes a long way!
Our flowering mango and litchi trees (very important for our drum potted plants too) now have the baby balls (gutis) -- forming panicles. Now, at this blooming stage, is the time to nurture them. All the plants, trees, and creepers at this stage need to be protected from insects and bugs. They need special care and food for their proper growth. It is similar to caring for the lactating mother. Individual care is important for healthy growth.

Personally I believe in living with nature, without medicine or plastic. We already have fed our Mother Earth too much of chemicals and poisons to fulfil our needs. Nowadays, it is difficult to live without medicine or chemicals -- so it is in the case of our plants. Growing and living organic is ideal, but that needs total effort to treat and keep the entire process eco-friendly. It requires dedication and time which needs to be available to us. We can discuss the issue separately.

As urban gardening is mostly done in a limited space, plants in containers do not get the full nourishment they would have otherwise gotten from the soil. This means that we might have to compromise with the thought of going green by applying a little bit of pesticide or hybrid plants. Sadly, our plants are forced to grow in small spaces or in pots and are deprived of growing in natural soil and getting natural nutrients. These plants need some TLC tender loving care.

Therefore, we need the assistance of preventive and curative remedies when the stage demands it for better health and growth.

Good food and care for our plants
Natural fertilisers: Used tea leaves, vegetable peals/ leftovers/ waste (that you can prepare at home keeping those in a container for weeks and let them rot and decompose) and make that ready for use. Cow dung/composed soil or oil cake (khail), bone mix are best for every plant. The loose and packed fertilisers are available in all nurseries around us (packed price ranges from Tk.35 to Tk.60 and Tk.120/kg)

Alternate care options for growth and good health
Chemical fertilisers like urea/triple super phosphate, potassium (TSP)/small ball/guti mix fertiliser, etc.) are good for fruit-bearing plants and trees. Use of TSP or urea -- two tablespoons per drum and smaller, or appropriate portions as per the size of the container or pot -- and mix with the upper soil a few inches away from the plant root/stalk. In other words do not apply fertiliser directly or close to the root of the plant. Spray little portions of water later for the next few days.

Who needs what
Bone mix is best for almost every flowering plant, particularly for roses. Oilcake liquid (khail -- one kg cake to be mixed with about 10 litres of water, put the mix in a tub/container somewhere outside the house/roof in a tight lid; otherwise the foul smell will be unpleasant. Allow that to rest for three-four weeks, feed the plant with the liquid mix as per the size of the plant and container, such as one mug per drum). Chemical fertiliser like urea is good for quick growth, particularly for the leafy vegetables.

Protection from insects and bugs
Ashes of leaves or woods work well to protect the winter vegetables (sheem, beans, eggplants, etc.).

Ripcord (small bottle priced Tk.125) is sold in all nurseries to protect plants and soil from bugs and ants. Application rule: one cap liquid to mix with 5 litres of water and spray over the branches Parfecthian or Darsban are effective in keeping away ants and black bugs from the leaves. One bottle is worth Tk. 60. Mix with 60/70 litres of water with one cap (bottle) of the insecticides.

For extra growth
Lettocen -- named as plant growth regulator (small bottle priced at Tk.85). Half cap of the bottle to be diluted with 5 litres of water and to be sprayed over the top of the branches of fruits in two episodes when young.

Soil treatment: thumb rules
Making soil loose, fluffy and airy is needed to get the sunlight inside -- once a week. Water the plants according to the need of the soil -- not much or less; drainage of water is a must to have. No stagnation of water at the pot/container is acceptable.

Finally, routine (everyday) care and love to each and every plant is necessary to keep them healthy and let them grow well. Plants can feel your love -- touch them, talk to them! They will respond!

Feel free to send email to share your thoughts, feedbacks, and photos of your garden, or to tell us your story; or ask a question at lifestyleds@yahoo.com


The fascinating business of flower

Peeking beyond what catches the casual eye usually leads to an eye-opener and an invigorating experience. For instance, have you ever stopped to wonder how the florists at the shops get hold of flowers in the first place? What you see is the top of the ice-berg. Let's hover around underneath, because underneath, are veins: a detailed and complicated, yet interesting, network of people working in this fascinating business.

The flower industry in Bangladesh can be said to have flourished quite well in the past fifteen to twenty years. Long ago, some farmers chalked out the idea of producing vegetables and started farming flowers instead. They made a good decision; the flower industry has developed a lot in the past decade.

With a rise in the income of general people and an upgrade in consumer tastes, the demand for flowers has increased in the past few years.

The chief district where flowers are produced is Jessore. There are several other areas too: Savar, some parts of Chittagong, Gazipur and Narayanganj are some names among others.

Jessore has its own wholesale market, where farmers sell their produce. These wholesalers then bring the flowers to Dhaka. There are two wholesale flower markets in Dhaka: one at Shahbagh and the other at Khamarbari.

The wholesale markets sit long before you wake up: it starts running just after Fajr prayers. The wholesalers from Jessore send flowers mostly on top of buses. As the buses reach the capital, they are taken to the wholesale markets in Shahbagh and Khamarbari by minivan, CNG, taxi, etc.

“My relative sits in the wholesale market in Jessore. He deals with the farmers and sends me the flowers here by dawn,” informs a wholesaler at Khamarbari.

Many farmers directly bring their produce in the two wholesale markets in Dhaka themselves. Many others come to the city, sell flowers to wholesalers and leave the market.

“There are cultivators or their representatives who come to sell at the wake of the dawn -- or sometimes even slightly before that. They sell their produce to the wholesalers and return,” informed another wholesaler.

On the other hand, there are farmers who sit in the wholesale market all through but actually don't involve themselves in the selling process. Rather, they have hired people who work for an amount to sell the flowers, managing the “shop”.

The wholesale markets are quite invigorating. A rather sad truth about life is that there are numerous interesting things happening all around us that we have no knowledge of.

The wholesale flower market in Khamarbari, for example, is a place full of life. As you enter the area, you are welcomed by the beautiful fragrance of flowers. The whole place is very colourful and vibrant. The wholesalers sit under the open sky and spend a hectic time trying to make profits.

The retailers buy from these wholesalers and very quickly pack the flowers to go to their respective shops. Minivans, rickshaws and CNG taxi are again the main vehicles.

And then, finally, you walk into one of these retail shops to buy flowers -- the tip of the ice-berg.

The street children selling flowers actually have a very similar process. They of course cannot afford to buy flowers at the usual market rate. So, they wait.

The fact that makes the wholesale market interesting is that it runs for a short time. Since the duration wholesalers get to sell their flowers is very short, price dynamics are exciting to observe. The markets are wrapped up by ten in the morning. During the end, price starts to fall as the wholesalers are desperate to sell all the perishable flowers.

Some flowers of course, remain unsold till the very end. It is then that the people who sell flowers in the streets come in. They buy those at a lower price and sell all day long, from one car to another.

On the other hand, some flowers are imported. “Flowers are imported mostly from China and also Thailand,” informed S. R. Babu, the event coordinator of Pushpo Nir, an exclusive flower store in Gulshan-2.

Although the flower business is going good, there are still many problems.

For example, how can event management firms come in the way of flower shops?

A flower shop owner in Banani explains. “Event management firms -- even 'decorators' people hire for weddings -- need flowers. This is supposed to be good news for us, but it's not. What they do is that they leap over us and directly go to the wholesalers! Since they buy flowers in bulk, they go to the wholesalers and buy from them at a price lower than what they would have to pay if they bought from us. This issue has severely harmed me.”

You may think that even though these firms surpass the retail shops, they again have to come back to them for floral decoration and design. This is not the case. Even in the wholesale markets, there are always some people with the necessary floral decoration skills looking for assignments.

If properly managed, the flower industry can become a truly booming one. It has got potential. A lot needs to be done. For example, Bangladesh currently exports a tiny, insignificant percentage of its flowers, according to Babu from Pushpo Nir. We still do not have the necessary logistics to pull this through.

The government must come to the rescue, stakeholders say. “There is not even a greenhouse for floriculture. How can our farmers control the quality of the flowers?” Babu said.

With the right amount of research and pool of knowledge, money and other resources, flowers can bring more happiness to a greater number of people.

By M H Haider
Photo: Star Archive


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